Sandwich of the Month: BLT
BLTs are a seasonal treat that tend to be eaten in the summer when tomatoes are ripening on the vine and crisp, cool lettuce is a welcome ingredient on a hot day. Although bacon, lettuce and tomato have existed for centuries, it is believed these three ingredients were not combined to make the first tasty BLT sandwich until around 1900. Appreciation for the BLT didn’t truly hit its stride until after World War II, when of the rapid expansion of supermarkets allowed fresh produce to be available year-round. Now, the BLT is one of the most popular sandwiches in the United States, second only to the ham sandwich.
The BLT is so popular, several record-breaking versions of the sandwich have been created in recent years. The current record was set in 2009 by Bentley Dining Services at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. The sandwich measured 209 feet 1 inch. That’s a lot of BLT!
The standard BLT is made up of five ingredients: bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and bread. The ratios of these ingredients are solely up to the individual consumer. The real flavorful secret is the balance of salty bacon, crisp lettuce and juicy tomato. The heat of the bacon and cold of the vegetables also provides an enjoyable temperature and texture contrast.
First, let us discuss the B: Bacon. It’s the top banana, literally the meat of this particular subject. Therefore, the quality of the bacon is quite important. It should be dry-cured and sliced thick. In this monkey’s opinion, run-of-the-mill supermarket bacon is not going to cut it, even though some people go so far as to use (gasp) fake bacon. With that, the bacon’s texture after preparation is a matter of preference, whether you like it crispy, tender or rubber in the case of the facon.
On to the L: Lettuce. Iceberg is common. Bibb or Buttercrunch are tasty additions to a BLT. Some even prefer the bitter romaine. For the most part, it’s hard to go wrong with lettuce as long as it’s fresh and clean.
Bringing us to the T: Tomato. Some think the tomato is the most important part of the BLT. After all, it provides a great contrast to the saltiness of the bacon. For a great BLT, the tomato must be fleshy, with few seeds and a good flavor. Beefsteak tomatoes are perfect for these sandwiches.
Now for the first ingredient not listed in the name: Bread. It can be toasted or not, but more important is its texture. White bread is a classic choice, but whole wheat, sourdough or even thick-cut homemade bread works fine and tastes great. But don’t pick some kind of grainy, healthy, hippie bread. Don’t say we didn’t warn you
Mayonnaise can actually be a surprisingly controversial ingredient. Hellman’s has that classic mayo taste. Miracle Whip is the only way to go for some BLT lovers. Have some oil, egg yolks, lemon juice and paprika? We know some of you are serious enough to make your own. Some bacon lovers are so committed, the bread in their BLT goes naked.
Voila. As with many other simple foods, BLTs are subject to variations. Using different breads and versions of the basic ingredients are where it starts. Some people mix up their BLTs by adding in an extra layer of sliced meat, such as turkey or chicken. Some gourmet versions are even made with salmon or trout. In many restaurants, one could even order BLT versions of pasta dishes, soups, pizzas, burgers and more.
Sometimes, though, all one needs is a good classic BLT. Perhaps it could be jazzed up with a little sprinkle of salt and pepper on the tomatoes. Pour a glass of milk or lemonade and enjoy your sandwich.
Which ingredient in a BLT is the most important: the bacon, lettuce, tomato, bread or mayonnaise?